Hard days ahead says Airdrie chief
But Ballantyne insists ship steadied for now
Airdrie chairman Jim Ballantyne admitted it had been a “pretty s***” time for the club since Tom Wotherspoon announced he was stepping down last month – but he has called on the Diamonds fans to rally round the team.
Ballantyne was speaking at a meeting hosted by the Airdrieonians Supporters Trust at the town’s Working Men’s Social Club after a week of turmoil.
He revealed Wotherspoon made a commitment to fund “a little bit” of the club – but was at pains to point out that the cash available is “substantially less” than last year.
Ballantyne said the club’s main aim is to concentrate on getting to the end of the season but admitted it will be a “difficult year” unless someone with a “big wallet” comes forward.
He stated that there were no offers on the table and declined to reveal how much the club was valued at.
The chairman did point out that M& H Logistics, Wotherspoon’s company, are owed a “substantial amount” by Airdrieonians. However, the majority shareholder is disbarred from taking it out as legally it would be a “preferential distribution” and “would make the company insolvent”.
He told the well- attended meeting that season tickets are set to go on sale and that the club will begin the process of searching for a new “experienced” manager “at our level” – stating it will now be “business as usual”.
When asked about sales of the likes of Rohan Ferguson and Andy Ryan, he said that they were like every club in Scotland and every player has their price. He said they had refused two “derisory” bids already this summer.
Ballantyne said he hoped the club would be able to take advantage of the loan market to strengthen the squad as they “as a board are not happy with the level of pressure put on our young apprentices’ shoulders”.
He admitted at the beginning of last week he had taken time for “a fair bit of contemplation and had to think if I could take this any further” after a gap in cashflow meant the club were on the brink of folding.
He said: “The club was at threat. We could have gone into administration, but potentially liquidation,” he told the room.
“We filled in with the Trust guys and set to work to see what we could do to keep the club going.
“The biggest problem is the wages are paid monthly. When we were in charge they were paid weekly because it’s easier to find a few grand for a one-off rather than 10, 15 or 25 grand.
“We were sitting on a hugely difficult situation, the term for it is wrongful trading, whereby we continue to trade and take money off people knowing you don’t have a plan to continue. We were looking down the barrel of that.
“We had meetings with the Trust and there were various discussions about how we could generate that money.
“However, we couldn’t start taking money for season tickets, or from any sponsors, because we could be held personally liable.
“So, it’s been pretty s*** actually. Over the last week or so we have managed to make some progress.”
He continued: “There wasn’t enough money to pay the wages but myself and Ann Marie [Ballantyne, club secretary] put money in to pay it and every contract was honoured.
“That gives us the breathing space to get moving.
“We are trying desperately to get to a break-even situation. We are almost there but it isn’t pretty.
“With the players that are registered, and not having a manager, we are breaking even.
“The test we have is we need to generate new income streams and that’s the big challenge.
“We feel we have got it into such a state that we can now go forward.
“When Tom [ Wotherspoon] came in he was full of great ideas. We needed someone with bigger and better resources that ours and Tom had that. It just didn’t click for him.
“We should be further forward for the money we have spent but we are where we are.”
He added: “We are asking to get people to rally round.
“We have to be able to secure funding to get players in – and we need players in let’s not kid ourselves.”
Over the last week or so we have managed to make some progress
Testing times For Airdrie chairman Jim Ballantyne